Saturday, July 31, 2010

Batman: Under the Hood Volume 1 (comics)

Writer: Judd Winick
Artists: Doug Mahnke, Paul Lee, Matt Wagner (covers)
Collects: Batman #635-641

This is a big one. There's no debating this story is controversial because of what it proceeded to do. Some are absolutely unable to look past the consequences of this story and for that they hate it. That's not entirely fair, but it can be understood; this storyline treads on some ground that was sacred for about twenty years previous. But if it leads to a great story, there should be no sacred ground in comics; Ed Brubaker proved it with Captain America and Judd Winick proved it with this, Under the Hood.

The story is about many things, but the past is probably front and center here. Many things from the past of the Dark Knight come back to haunt him here. It starts with the new player in Gotham, the Red Hood; it's a moniker that carries no small weight in Batman lore and it's not where the familiarity ends. What commences is the start of all out war between the Red Hood and Gothams current Crime Boss, the Black Mask, with Batman in the middle. By the end of the volume, the fight becomes so much more than that; the stakes for Batman become very personal as the landscape for Gotham begins to shift.

On the surface, that doesn't sound like a noteworthy synopsis, but as I mentioned, the story is about a lot of things. It's about death, life, the loss of family, the never-ending war, the ethics of Batman's moral code, a man struggling to make sense of what he suspects is occuring and most of all it's about a father-figure who has never been able to stop grieving for the loss of his own. The Batman we know at the start of this volume is one even more hardened than usual; he's yet again lost another to the war on crime, he's pushed away many of his allies, he's lost his hold on the Gotham mob and he's walled himself off. It's Batman at one of his grimmest, lowest points without making him overly Bat-jerkish. There's quite a bit going on here and most of it's interesting.

Another thing I like about this volume is how relatively self contained this story is. There are occasions where events from another book are alluded to - why Batman's standoffish with Zatanna, for example - but in most instances all of the information necessary is provided for you. Right down to the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the heroes Batman begins visiting halfway through. This is somewhat significant when you realize that this is a pretty major story and that most major stories since Knightfall have been huge, sprawling crossovers (a good half of which worked and half didn't, but we won't get into that). From here on, the Batman universe started to become a bit more self contained and ended up all the better for it.

Finally - and this is more a personal opinion - part of me looks to this story as something akin to the start of a new "Golden Age", if you will, for Batman. While this story - and many that follow - aren't everyones cup of tea, most of them are good to great and some to follow are destined to be classics. To me, it doesn't seem like Batman always found himself with runs like this in the past, so to me it's significant; it's great to be excited about what's coming for the Dark Knight seemingly at all times. It's all the more awesome when you realize Batman had only just recently been at one of his lower points; I'm speaking of War Games, of course, which was absolutely terrible.

To say I'm a Judd Winick fan would be a bit misleading. I've enjoyed some of his work and despised others. But since the first time I read this story, I've felt he had a particularly good hold on the Batman mythos and the denizens of Gotham. Everyone feels right from Batman - thankfully near the end of his uber grim and gritty Batjerk stage - on down. Black Mask in particular is a treat; we get some dark humor through this character and I found many of the Black Masks lines to be standouts, enough so that I found it quite a shame when the events in Catwoman occured. The only character I'm not sure about is Mr. Freeze - in this storyline far more willing to slaughter and easier to irritate than I'm used to - but it's something that isn't hard to get past.

The art is quite good when Doug Mahnke is doing it. I'm not entirely sure on when and where the switches occur, but the credits list another artist and there are points where the artwork feels sloppier. So it's not overly difficult to put two and two together to hazard a guess on when the switch-offs happen. It's distracting but not enough so that it ruins things. For the most part, the arts strong from linework to colors. It serves the story well.

As a final note on the art, I'd like to point out the cool covers by Matt Wagner. Some of them even carry an "animated" look to them. Very good work that deserves mention.

The Score: 8.5 out of 10

There's a lot to love here. Just a well done Batman story that convinced me Judd Winick could do great work when on the right property. Treading sacred ground doesn't always feel this good. I recommend this for sure.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A Change or Two

In case anyone was wondering what was up with the score in my last review, well, I decided to change a thing or two, namely my scoring system. I've been regretting the one I went with for a while now. It's way too in-jokey and ultimately kind of dumb; seriously, only people coming from one site would get the joke. I have no clue what I was thinking when I decided to go with it. Guess you live and learn.

I plan on slowly working my way back through my posts, implementing the new scoring system. I've got quite a few, so unfortunately it's not going to be an easily completed task. I'm just glad I decided to do this before I had way too many to be worth even bothering. Should take a while, but eventually I hope to have the old scoring system dropped.

I've been doing this for about a year and a half, but I've still got the basic layout of the site. So I'm thinking about looking into a custom template or something. We'll see what happens.

Batman: The Black Casebook (comics)

Writers: Bill Finger, Edmond Hamilton and France Herron
Artists: Sheldon Moldoff, Dick Sprang and Lew Sayre Schwartz
Collects: Batman #65, #86, #112-113, #134, #156, #162; Detective Comics #215, #235, #247, #267; Worlds Finest #89
Introduction by: Grant Morrison

This is another theme collection - the other of which I reviewed here - released in wake of events in Grant Morrisons run on Batman. The difference is, unlike Strange Deaths of Batman, The Black Casebook actually has a bit more purpose behind its existence. Whereas Strange Deaths was a collection with a loose theme of death, The Black Casebook is actually a collection of the Silver Age stories that Grant Morrison refers to and draws from in his long running Batman epic. Grant even penned an introduction for this collection, where he explains each choice, why he drew from them and what they meant to him.

This collection actually has a good bit going for it aside from the obvious. For one thing, roughly three quarters of the collection happens to be stories penned by Bill Finger, whom is basically the "forgotten" Batman creator (long story, not necessary for this review). The collection also features the work of Dick Sprang on a couple issues, who - while not as much so as Curt Swan was for Superman - is probably the closest thing Batman's Silver Age has to a defining artist. So it's a nice little bundle of work from some of the earlier creators in Batmans stories history.

The subject matter can vary wildly from issue to issue, but as a collection this actually holds together better than Strange Deaths did. All of the material is combed from a thirteen year period in Batmans history - 1951 to 1964 - so there's a lot of consistency to be found here. The stories aren't as different in tone, structure or look as the contents of other collections might be (the kind that will pull one story from the fifties, another from the nineties, one from the seventies and so on).

Make no mistake, some of these stories are strange stuff. Quite honestly it's not surprising - this is the Silver Age were talking about here, not to mention stories hand picked by Grant Morrison - and in it's own way it's endearing. Many early collected stories deal with heroes inspired by Batman who join the Club of Heroes while later ones start delving into the strange and surreal. We get the issue Bat-Mite first appeared in, for instance, another where Batman is turned into an ape creature, a fight against a Rainbow monster in South America and another where Batman is brought to another planet to basically play Superman. It's some damn odd stuff, but that's part of the fun.

As a result of the stories all being taken from a specific time period, the quality of the collection is much more consistent than most. Almost all of them are good in their own way. But whether the collection will appeal to a given person or not depends largely on their likes or dislikes. These stories are very old fashioned in structure; many of them have a case of clip-show-itis* and the downright oddity of the stories might not be for everyone. Also, in the days these stories were written continuity wasn't a huge deal; aside from the numerous appearances of the Club of Heroes there isn't much connectivity between them or references made. All this aside the stories within are gems, for the most part, with perhaps the only loser of the bunch being the opening "Wingman" story; both Superman of Planet X and Robin Dies at Dawn, however, are standouts.

As for the overall presentation of the collection, it leaves a bit to be desired. I can understand why lower grade paper would be used - this isn't exactly something that's guaranteed to set the sales charts on fire - but the complete lack of the covers of every issue collected is just ridiculous. Having the covers of the issues collected somewhere in the collection should be trade composition 101 by now. This was also an issue with Strange Deaths of Batman, so I honestly don't get what's going on here. It's a dumb omission.

Also of note is that I was hoping for a little extra oomph from the presentation. The front and back covers are just great, carry a worn look to it that makes the collection look sort of like a casebook that's seen a lot of use. A little more of this kind of detail would have put it over the top. As I was reading, I couldn't help but think perhaps they should have commissioned Grant Morrison to write some actual Black Casebook excerpts to place between each story, giving modern day Batmans thoughts on each of his strange adventures from this era. Something like that would really have set the collection apart and given some extra incentive to pick it up. Not to mention cement it's status a bit more as a worthy companion piece to Grants run. I can see why they wouldn't go this extra mile, but I can't help feeling it's a lost opportunity here.

The Score: 7.5 out of 10

Personally, I found a lot to like here. Many of the contained stories are gems and probably the better stories of Batman's Silver Age. But there's no getting around the reality that it's not for everyone. Some people just cannot stand Silver Age Batman and if you're one of those, steer clear because that's what the entire collection consists of. For the rest of us, however, there's some old school fun to be had here that makes it worth the change and the read. A part of me just wishes the presentation had been taken that extra step.

* Clip-show-itis is how I refer to the way these old stories were written. Most of the old school stories wrap within an issue or even half of one, but the trade-off is that a lot of the time you're basically just looking at static panels with no real flow. Like, say, one panel Batman's on the roof and the next he's at ground level punching thugs with a lot of exposition in each panel explaining how we got from point to point. Or basically a lot of telling, not showing. Some people who decry decompression long for the days things wrapped in an issue or two, but to be honest this way of doing things sucked. You're pretty much just drug through the story - which might be otherwise interesting - and nothing is given the attention it might need. Screw clip-show-itis.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Random Trains of Thought 7/29/2010

- Grant Morrisons "Batman Inc." was announced at SDCC this past weekend. I'm so friggin stoked you wouldn't even believe it. Man's a genius and screw anyone who says otherwise. The only problem is that he's talked about a two year plan and wrapping it up, which leaves me worried. I don't want his run to end.

I know, I know, the bullet's been dodged before - about three times, in fact, considering that's the number of times he was thinking of ending his run and got new ideas - and even if he did, he's already put out a definitive run that's likely to sit up there with O'Neil/Adams. But seriously, that's all the more reason I'm not ready to even consider the ride may end. There were great Batman stories before him and there will be after him, but part of me wants him to have a very long run before he moves on.

- So, yeah. Looks like FrankenCastle is ending at #21. Back to regular Punisher in the Marvel Universe!

I'm thoroughly disgusted. Comic fans really are narrow in their character views, aren't they? Thanks for browbeating Marvel on this concept until they threw it out as soon as possible, everyone. Now when I go to get the first FrankenCastle story in trade, I'll know I have two more to look forward to, tops.

Friggin ridiculous; especially considering there's a goddamn MAX book for regular Punisher, which meant fans of the regular one weren't left out in the cold.

- I must be the only one who thinks the "Two Batmen" concept the Dick Grayson fans are parading about is the most retarded thing I ever heard. This opinion dropped further when one of them talked about it "helping make Batman an Urban Legend again". I think I've made my thoughts on THAT ONE pretty clear.

Sigh. Hopefully if that's what is in mind, Grant fleshes it out and makes it work. He's the only guy I can think of who could, honestly.

- Oh my god Grant Morrison is writing an indy flick called Sintaro I AM SO IN. Seriously, this movie has cults, cowboys, armies of hobos, an amnesiac protagonist and the desert. How can that NOT sound cool? Unless, of course, your ability to detect awesome has been broken.

An army of hobo's; I'm hoping someone is gored by a broken beer bottle in the course of this movie and another is choked out with rags. Then the hobo's steal all the protagonists money to buy booze. Hell yeah!

All fanboying aside though, I'm really interested in this project for other reasons as well. Grant's known for experimenting and playing with how these things work. It's all over his comic work. Hollywood, on the other hand... doesn't do much of that these days. So from that perspective, it will be interesting to see what Grant can bring to a film. Plus I think this is the first time he's ever written a film script. Should be something to keep an eye on.

- Can we have a rule where any new Transformers media is barred from killing off Optimus Prime from here on in? Yes, I realize the '86 movie made a lot of kids cry and imprinted upon their memories. That does not mean it needs to happen almost every goddamn time there's something related to Transformers. He always comes back, as he should, so what's the point anymore? It feels like I've seen Optimus die eight times since. It was dumb the first time; same goes for what they did to Cobra Commander in the other Sunbow produced series. They had some real brain surgeons at Sunbow in the 80's. Though I suppose it wasn't entirely thierr fault; when your series is based off a toy line that constantly looks to add new figures for the kiddies to buy every series, stuff like that occasionally happens.

Anyways, I'm pretty sure the "dead Optimus" idea has been stripped of potential by now; I say this primarily because I'm half afraid the upcoming Transformers Prime series is going to pull it and I'd really prefer they didn't drag us down this particular road again.

- I notice I'm playing fewer games lately. Half the time a game I want to buy has DLC and I'm waiting for a compiled disc edition of the whole thing. Others just make me want to snore. Not good; hope some good stuff releases relatively soon, because I don't have much I'm itching to play whether I buy or rent. When I can't even get myself up to playing a game through a rental, somethings up.

- What the hell's with the trend of linearity in games lately? Or even less to do? Grand Theft Auto IV dropped too much from the previous games. Both Resident Evil 5 and Final Fantasy XIII are painfully linear. What's going on here? Are the dev teams tired of their franchises or something? All three have standards of excellence and none of them even came close to meeting them, much less surpassing.

- So it sounds like Jonah Hex was both bad and dead on arrival. This is very disappointing for me. I thought the trailer looked cool, so I was hoping it boded well for the rest of the film. Too much to hope for, I guess. But either way I knew it would bomb even if it was good. America and westerns just don't seem to mix anymore. Even the great remake of 3:10 to Yuma barely made a profit, and the friggin thing had Christian Bale and Russel Crowe.

- Sometimes I really think DC should put a moratorium on drawing from Alan Moore stories so the dude can straight shut the hell up.

- At SDCC, JMS said of Wonder Womans new costume: "When she's fighting somebody, when that jacket comes off, you know you're gonna get your ass whipped."

I immediately thought "holy crap he's shooting for Bruce Lee with breasts" for some reason. Not because of martial arts prowess or anything, because Wonder Womans got nothing on Lee. That's just how I've always described Bruce Lee. Fully clothed, he just looks like a somewhat normal asian guy, but when he takes the shirt off, your thought process comes down to "oh shit I'm gonna die".

Either way, it's kind of amusing to me that the Wonder Woman books new direction is the one that got all the negative press right off - not that Grounded didn't, but I'm talking volume of fanboy screeches - but it might end up being the one of his two ongoings (Superman and Wonder Woman) that genuinely works.

Go figure.

- I just realized I haven't watched wrestling in weeks. I haven't been good about remembering to tune into a TV show in years. I think the last time I was actually good about tuning into a show I liked was back when DBZ was still on every afternoon, for shits sake.

I guess it isn't much wonder why I buy season sets of my favorite shows nowadays; I can't remember to tune in to them on cable for the life of me. Can't really do that with wrestling though. You either watch it or you don't; if there's a highlight, that's the part of the show that will see repeat on DVD sets and whatnot.

- Man, Double Fine can't sell a game to save their life, can they? Even Brutal Legend didn't make it. Which is why a sequel's been scrapped. Times like this I hate my fellow gamers.

- Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person who could give a shit about the Legend of Zelda. Back in the day that game series was revolutionary, but hell, Final Fantasy couldn't sell for shit back then either. Now it just always feels dated to me. Like the same RPG-lite the franchise has always been.

I've played most of them at least once and the only ones I've genuinely liked were Links Adventure and Twilight Princess. A Link to the Past is the only other one to hold my attention, but halfway through I lost interest. Once I got to the Dark Realm I just got bored and never went back.

- I'm a little tired of Mario too, for that matter. I still love the Mario games. But even a formula that classic is starting to feel a little stale. Part of me wishes Nintendo would put it away for a bit.

- It was announced at San Diego Comic Con that the three to four times a month "Brand New Day" direction of Spider-Man was ending. Why they referred to it as the "Brand New Day" direction, I haven't the foggiest. That title hasn't appeared on a Spider-Man issue since four months after the thrice monthly direction started. But I digress.

Twice a month by Dan Slott sounds good to me - especially considering One Moment in Time, which I will be skipping in trade, will put to rest all the questions raised since OMD leaving Slott to stop making those cutesy allusions to One More Day - so I'm all for it. Honestly, I don't know how in the hell Marvel managed it for the two and a half plus years they did it. It sounds like it was a herculean task.

Mostly, however, I'm happy it's going to a slower schedule primarily because I am just SO friggin' behind. Seriously, the trades have been coming out at such a quick clip, I can't really even pretend to keep up. When I buy trades, I often buy a varied mix of stuff I've wanted with the only guarantee being that there's probably going to be a Batman trade in there somewhere. So I don't often buy more than one Spidey trade at a time, if I even get one at a given order. You can see how I got to the point I am.

So, yeah, it would give me a little more rope to catch up, which would be nice.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Resident Evil 5 (video game)

Platform: X-Box 360, Playstation 3
Developer: Capcom
Genre: Survival Horror
ESRB Rating: M
Release Date: March 13, 2009

So with this game, the Resident Evil franchise finishes its metamorphosis from survival horror to something more akin to survival action.

That's probably an unfair statement, as it implies Resident Evil 4 led this series down this road. While it's true the last game changed the series a great deal from prior installments, it still kept it's roots firmly in horror and surviving; you just had a new playstyle and ammo wasn't as hard to come by. But this game seems to eschew it's origins the rest of the way.

The story is where the oddities begin. Honestly, it's nice to play as Chris Redfield again. It really is. But the story he's surrounded in isn't exactly befitting. Mostly because there isn't much story until about halfway in. You never really found out much about what was going on until about that point in prior games, but there was often an air of mystery to them and intrigue. Also, prior games had files, which gave a great deal of backstory to each title and at times even upped the creepiness factor. Here they're almost entirely absent - aside from the occasional entry - the ones that do exist are no longer logged and it's all sorely missed.

The origins of the different viruses are revealed in this game. Unfortunately, it's less than inspired. Without spoiling it, it can be said that the roots of the entire franchise is now tied to one thing that, in a way, seems to diminish the concepts as a whole. Saying that perhaps Umbrella's culpability is lessened due to the roots being in something born in nature would be going way too far, but the franchise loses something with this revelation. Much of the mystique is now lost and what was once entirely the screw up of a morally bankrupt, faceless company content to create viruses and bioweapons now has roots in nature. Maybe it isn't as big a deal for anyone else; for me, however, it felt like something about the dynamic of the series had changed and not in a good way.

Capcom has said that this game is, in effect, something of an end to several different plots regarding the series - mainly series baddie Wesker and his overall goals - and they hold to that, but it doesn't feel earned. Before now, Wesker's motives seemed mysterious and something you wanted to know about. Here, all that is gone, as Weskers plan turns into a typical "blow up the world and become ruler of what's left" story, almost as if the developers just finally got bored with the franchise and just straight up wanted to end most of the series running plots in this game by hook or crook. It's a startlingly bad turn for the series most interesting villain and also provides an unsatisfying ending to, at the least, the plots that have spanned much of the franchise.

Speaking of villains, many of the others in this game are uninspired. Ricardo Irving in particular - Brooklyn accent and all - has to be the absolute lamest villain ever to appear in the games; keep in mind this is a franchise that saw Ramon Salazar. Considering the increasing focus this franchise has taken in the past several installments on human antagonists, it's almost distressing that they've gotten progressively more lame as the series has gone by.

The setting of the story is also a problem. Not, of course, because of the dumb racism cries. To tell the truth, there is absolutely nothing about this game tied to it's setting in Africa. When I'd first heard the game was to take place in Africa, I'd expected the game would deal heavily in the mythology surrounding the country. It is, after all, the birthplace of the zombie concept, which has it's roots in African voodoo. While there is the occasional reference to things related to the country, for the most part it's an interchangeable setting. It could have been set in just about any third world country and the only thing lost would be the outrage over "racism". It's a missed opportunity of the highest order and enough to make you weep for the lost potential.

But what about the horror elements, you may ask. Missing, for the most part. There's almost nothing new or scary in this game. Ninety percent of the enemies in this game are rehashes of enemies from Resident Evil 4, right down to an El Gigante clone. Hell, the only difference between Ganado's and the Majini are skin color. The most exciting thing to happen in regards to the enemies is the return of a classic series monster late in the game. Even the traditional Mercenaries mode is the same as last time. For that part, it's not such a big deal, but you'd think they could have added something new to the minigame to spice things up a bit. I guess not.

As you can guess, there's an air of plain to it all and it saps any frights from the game. The last title used it's setting and the unfamiliarity of it all to great effect, managing to create tension despite the then new play style. This game takes place in the daytime, against enemies you're intimately familiar with and expect, with absolutely no surprises. In development, they seemed to have different features going that would have brought out a sense of horror, including the possibility of hallucinations a la Eternal Darkness if you were out in the sun too long. It's all been scrapped in favor of absolutely nothing you haven't seen before.

The gameplay remains largely the same as the last entry. Except, of course, for the great touches that made RE4 awesome. The game is divided into Chapters and each of the six have two, maybe three, sections; in other words, they basically revived the level concept in a game series that's supposed to be about horror, exploring and puzzles. Speaking of puzzles, there are none. The most you'll have to do is fetch some emblems to open a door or guide a laser into a target to use an elevator. Yeah. The inventory system has also been overhauled, dropping the fun and interesting briefcase system for a far more limiting and cramped plain jane style.

As you can probably guess from how I harp on the linearity, the game is impossibly short. Not to mention linear. When I say linear, I mean you're on a straight path through the entire game. There are no detours, puzzles or sprawling mansions to search. You start a chapter in an area and you go from point A to point B, rinse and repeat; there isn't even a merchant anymore, as you'll do most of your buying and selling between chapters and sections. This also helps make the game horribly short; if you knew what you were doing in the old games, you could speedrun them for low times and bonus weapons. In this game you're not likely to finish in too much more than six hours unless you basically screw around in each level, taking your sweet time; and why you would bother I haven't the foggiest, since there's nothing to do in each level besides look around for some emblems to shoot for a few unlockables.

Of course, I suppose you could always do what I did; stand around a few minutes from time to time, wondering just what the hell Capcom was thinking when they made this game.

The Score: 6.5 out of 10

In short, this game does not even come close to living up to the standard set by Leon Kennedy's adventures in Europe. If Capcom is bored with this franchise, then it shows. The whole project feels cobbled together primarily to give some kind of "closure" to the series rather than actually make a fun game. You may find some enjoyment in the game as a straightforward action game with RE4's play style, but otherwise this game is just a heaping plate of meh with a side of what-the-hell-Capcom.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Op/Ed: Batman the Urban Legend

Lets face it. Some ideas are dumb as hell. No amount of explaining will really fix it. But every so often one of those ideas comes along and the people in charge absolutely insist on forcing it down our throats. You see it every so often in television, wrestling and even comic books. Eventually they may well learn their lesson and move on, but their folly has still become part of history and they may even be convinced that they had the right idea regardless.

I really view the dead end concept of Batman as an Urban Legend in Gotham City as one of them.

To start off, I should say that it's not without merit in some situations. In the early years of Batmans career, it makes sense that it would be an image he'd cultivate for a while to scare the crooks. So it works for stories usually set in the "Year One" era. Also, using it in alternate universe stories isn't exactly a bad thing either. There are a couple that work pretty good.

It's when they've tried applying it to the main Batman comics that there's been a problem.

And try they did. Back in the 90's - when Grim and Gritty was all the rage - the Bat offices were really pushing to keep Batman out of the greater goings-on of the DC Universe. After Frank Millers stories saw great success, the Bat offices wanted him pretty much on his own. They campaigned to have his entire Justice League tenure removed and even went so far as to directly retcon him as an Urban Legend to Gothamites during Zero Hour. Needless to say, they were pretty intent on shoving this concept straight down our throats without so much as a glass of water.

It's not hard to see why. They weren't stupid. In an age when dark heroes were vogue, Batman had become their lynchpin for this. But having him hang with colorful dudes in tights doesn't really work for the image they were cultivating. Same for him being involved in every world crisis. So they wanted to remove it on that short sighted basis.

I've known quite a few people who would probably embrace such an approach. The concept of "the grimmer the Batman the better" is all to prevalent with some folks. So making him an urban legend in Gotham that scares the wits out of crooks and growls at any hero who dares even think of setting foot in his city? Works for them.

I honestly feel they're wrong.

Let's face it, the urban crime fighter approach is limiting. Batman has done it all in the long years the character has been around; and while the alien fighting campy days aren't something I'm anxious to see return, keeping him a dark urban commando is something I want to see just as little. What's great about Batman is that he's a character that can withstand many different interpretations; an aspect that should be embraced, not shunned.

But moreover, it's just a flawed concept. The notion of Batman being an urban legend is laughable because the character honestly never stopped being put in grander situations. Oh sure, in the Batman titles they played lip service to the urban legend deal, but meanwhile Batman was chillin' with the other heroes fighting to keep the sun from going out or whupping some White Martians. These are world altering threats that affect everyone with great visability. So the rest of the DCU knows about Batman, but Gotham doesn't until a good while after Batmans participated in many world altering events. See the problem?

On top of this, said concept forces you to take huge leaps of logic. I mean, we've got colorful guys running around like clowns, scarecrows and Alice in Wonderland characters. So who fights them, often in the open? Batman. Those guys are big news and they expected you to believe that every time one of them popped up, made a stink and were caught, no one saw or acknowledge the big dude dressed like a Bat. So who did they think caught those dudes? The police? And how could the two bit hoods and mob bosses not hear about this Batman and take it seriously? News would travel through the underworld and while you could believe they'd cop to the urban legend bit for a while, eventually they'd get wise. Especially with all the guys Joker, Two-Face and so on employ who are routinely beat up by Batman and thusly know he exists.

"Gosh golly gee! Jokers tried to poison the Gotham Reservoir again! What? He's in Arkham now? Who stopped him? The Batman? Naw, he's just an urban legend! Despite the eight times this has happened in the past, I know Batman has to be an urban legend because... umm... well... well of course he's an urban legend!"

Even if you somehow manage to buy into the concept for Batman - and I honestly don't see how - it's kind of hard to miss the kid in red, yellow and green who frequently traipses around with the dude.

Also of note is the fact that when they tried to do this, major crap went down in Gotham. At least two major viruses and an earthquake happened in the intervening years that Batman combated. So, during all that, which Batman struggled to find a cure for and worked with the police, he was just an urban legend. Not to mention that Batman was in the main JLA during the time. But he's an urban legend. Right.

On top of all this, it's impossible to do without a complete continuity wipe. Obviously, that's not an attractive option, because it wipes out a lot of classic Batman adventures from the timeline not to mention screws with DC history even more. So they just cold altered it in Zero Hour to make him considered an urban legend.

As you can guess, this causes major timeline issues. People always considered him an urban legend, but this can't be possible. After all, what about the time when the Joker tried to murder the entire UN and Batman was there to stop him? What about when Batmans back was straight up broken and he was laid out in the street in front of numerous bystanders as Bane shouted his triumph? The replacement Batman? Hell, the entire Knightfall saga that had wrapped literally months prior? I mean, Bane showed up during the urban legend era, so... yeah. Or hell, how about the story that happened only a couple of years prior where Batman saves the president from the KGBeast? The Killing Joke? The Cult?

It's really insulting to the intelligence, all for a concept that did absolutely nothing for Batman comics. Who can name a great story from that era that required the urban legend deal? There weren't any. It was arbitrary and pointless. At least when Spider-Mans marriage was straight up erased, it brought back loads of potential that led to great stories. The Batman urban legend gimmick was just a useless attempt at trying to keep Batman as much the impossibly, insultingly dark urban commando that had become popular. Nothing more than a vanity gimmick that served little purpose and just made things troublesome.

Also important is the fact that by this point in his life, Batman didn't need to be an urban legend. He was the ultimate hero of Gotham who was the best of the best. While early in his career, you can make the case that he may have needed to cultivate an urban legend gimmick to strike fear into people, that late it's unnecesary. The crooks are frightened because they know when Batman arrives on the scene, they're done. He will beat them senseless and they will go to jail. That's worse an any urban legend; after all, can you imagine the tension a crook would feel, knowing that Batman could drop down at any moment and if he did show up they were definitely going back to jail with a concussion? You can't buy a reputation like that.

Eventually, they finally decided to drop the idiotic plot point. I believe it was at some point during the course of the epic 1999 Batman saga No Mans Land. It wasn't soon enough.

Beyond that though, why would someone want Batman pigeonholed so heavily into that dark, mythic aspect? As we've seen over the course of the last decade, there are so many things you can do with Batman that it seems idiotic to limit him so. Which makes it so baffling that they honestly tried; it really is one of the dumbest ideas put forward in Batmans long history, in my opinion.

Batman can be the urban commando, he can be the swashbuckling hero, he can be the ultimate survivor and he can be the time traveling man-god, but I honestly believe he should never be one of those exclusively.